New York, NY
Patrick DeGennaro has been playing the piano since the age of seven. Classically trained, with thirty regional theater productions as musical director, impressive songwriting credits and multiple awards for singing behind him, his return to Birdland for the seventh time was well received. Dressed in jeans, a sleeveless white tee-shirt and sporting a hip rocker beard and major tattoos, he hit the deck with “Standing Up Straight,” one of several songs he wrote. Every member of his hot band was driving hard, the high-reaching energy level delivering a funky, rock blues opener.
With six musicians and two back-up singers, there was plenty of good music to be savored. DeGennaro accompanied himself much of the time, supported by Jorgen Kjaer (keyboard), Alec Berlin (guitar), Tony Ormond (bass), Clayton Craddock (drums) and Yoed Nir (cello). Each player was outstanding and took advantage of every opportunity to glow. DeGennaro performed the vocals, his full-bodied voice easily negotiating the spectrum from soft ballad to soulful rock and from key to shining key.
Jen Heaney and Lonna Marie, both top-rate vocalists, enhanced several songs, particularly “The One” and “I Hear Your Voice in the Rain,” the last of five songs from DeGennaro’s CD, Unbroken. It was one of the night’s best performances and his rendition contained traces of Michael McDonald. Although the entire band was on its game, Kjaer and Nir were deserving of special praise for “My All” and “Michelle,” as was Berlin for his fine work in “Woodstock,” “Why Not Me” and “You Took Me Over.” Craddock needs to be complimented also for “Why Not Me,” and Ormond mustn’t be forgotten for laying down a strong foundation for the whole program.
Two others of DeGennaro’s stellar presentations were “Stay” and “Michelle,” both of which were gentle and evocative. Lyrics such as “We made a promise to be true, stay for another day,” combined with the tender sound of a cello, filled “Stay” with all the sensibility of a classic torch song of an earlier era. “Michelle” is almost always sung as it was written and DeGennaro did nothing to compromise its sentimentality, although the execution was nevertheless his own.
Patrick DeGennaro appears to be capable of singing in any genre. Similarly, he has a range of musicians, instruments and singers that clearly have the ability to extend their reach. As good as the show was, it’s not hard to imagine what the addition of a number or two from the Great American Songbook might have contributed. Singer/songwriters like DeGennaro have begun to blur the lines of what a good standard should be. It will be interesting to see if some of his songs are eventually covered by other singers. There’s always room for another gifted composer and lyricist to broaden the catalog.
September 26, 2011